By Tamas Mondovics
The Lee Roy Selmon Expressway has been serving thousands of southeastern Hillsborough County commuters well, including a large number of military personnel who are making their way to MacDill Air Force Base, or to Tampa General Hospital. Unfortunately, commuters’ smooth sailing of the roadway only goes so far, prompting motorist and local officials to seek solutions for traffic-plagued areas beyond the end of the Selmon track.
In an effort to relieve congestion and to provide an alternate route for travelers seeking an easier and quicker access to the harbor or to the Gandy Bridge, the Tampa Hillsborough Expressway Authority (THEA) Board of Directors unanimously voted to approve $2.6 million for conceptual designs of the Selmon Extension in February.
THEA owns, maintains, and operates four facilities within Hillsborough County: the Selmon Expressway, the Brandon Parkway, Meridian Avenue, and the Selmon Greenway.
“You don’t think about it consciously, but you place a value on your time,” said THEA’s CEO and Executive Director, Joe Waggoner as he talked about the agency’s mission and vision in connection with transportation solutions for the Tampa Bay area communities.
The Selmon Extension is a 1.6-mile toll lane from Dale Mabry Highway to the Gandy Bridge that is proposed to run 30 feet high above the median of Gandy Boulevard and create a choice for local residents and regional travelers. Future commuters can use Gandy Boulevard for local destinations or the Selmon Extension for a connection to the Selmon Expressway or the Gandy Bridge.
The need for a solution as well as the idea to build an elevated highway over Gandy is a long time coming, considering the gridlock that has plagued the roadway by turning the boulevard into a traffic nightmare for years. The extension’s construction phases as well as its visual impact on the community may not be everyone’s first choice, but according to THEA officials, at the end, it is a reasonable alternative to the current traffic woes and their subsequent affects felt by motorists, businesses and area residents.
Aside from the design, the projected cost of the extension could reach $190 million funded by tolls. Benefits of the above ground designs is that the elevated road would not destroy homes or stores. In preparation for a hurricane, both lanes could serve as an eastbound evacuation route. The possible completion date is 2020. Visit www.selmonextension.com.